The United States is taking significant steps to shield its personnel from any potential retaliation attack in the Middle East, on Wednesday ordering a temporary draw down from the embassy in Baghdad until President Trump leaves office.
This involves up to half of all diplomatic personnel leaving at a moment of soaring tensions with Iran following last week's assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, after which Tehran swore revenge.
Iranian leaders have blamed primarily Israel and the opposition proxy group MEK, the latter which for decades has sought the violent overthrow of the Ayatollah, but also have strongly suggested US assistance to the covert plot as well.
The move is based on fears of near-term attacks on the embassy or diplomats, as Iraqi officials told AFP: "It’s a minor drawdown based on security reservations from the US side. They could come back — it’s just a security blip," according to a source.
There's lately been an uptick in rocket fire on the embassy and Green Zone, including last month, which have been widely blamed on the powerful Iraqi Shia militias backed by Iran.
Deterrence: restored ✔️ https://t.co/Ey2rrPWUPT— Sam Heller (@AbuJamajem) December 2, 2020
This is precisely what happened after the last January US killing of IRGC Quds Force Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
He was killed alongside Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF). All of this enraged Iraq's majority Shia population, leading to mass street protests demanding an immediate American exit from the country.
Further, after the killing of Soleimani under a year ago Iran launched ballistic missile strikes on American bases in Iraq. Though there were no reported deaths, it's believed that over 100 US troops suffered Traumatic Brain Injury due to the large-scale blasts.